c.2013 New York Times News Service
BAYONNE, N.J. — The most expensive hospital in America is not set in Beverly Hills or in New York’s Upper East Side.
It is in a blue-collar town 11 miles from Midtown Manhattan.
Based on the bills it submits to Medicare, the Bayonne Medical Center charged the highest amounts in the country for nearly one-quarter of the most common hospital treatments, according to a New York Times analysis of 2011 data, the most recent available. No other hospital was at the top of the price list more often.
Bayonne Medical typically charged $99,689 for treating each case of chronic lung disease, 5.5 times as much as other hospitals and 17.5 times as much as Medicare paid in reimbursement. The hospital also charged on average of $120,040 to treat transient ischemia, a type of small stroke that has no lasting effect. That was 5.6 times the national average and 23.6 times what Medicare paid.
For those prices, the quality of care at Bayonne Medical is no better — or worse — than that at most other New Jersey hospitals. In a 2011 state hospital quality report, Bayonne Medical scored only in the top 50 percent. But profits at the hospital have soared in recent years, in part because it has found a way to turn some of those high billings into payments.
The increasingly contentious issue of hospital charges drew renewed attention last week when the federal government released Medicare data showing that facilities nationwide submitted widely divergent bills for the same treatments.
And while the hospital here holds a notable place in those rankings, others stand out as well.
The midsize Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa., was the top biller in the country for urinary tract infections, while one prestigious Manhattan hospital, NYU Langone Medical Center, charged twice as much as the equally high-end NewYork-Presbyterian to implant a cardiac pacemaker.
A close look at the finances of Bayonne Medical Center sheds light on how hospital pricing at the extremes may financially benefit an institution. The practices at Bayonne Medical also highlight a new financial strategy used by a small number of hospitals to increase their profits by “going out of network” — severing ties, and hence contractual agreements that limit reimbursement rates, with large private insurers.
Neither officials nor owners of Bayonne Medical responded to multiple calls and email requests for interviews. Because the company is privately held, it does not have to release financial data.